Trees in an arid environment such as Denver cannot be taken for granted. But it is not only rain fall that determines the type and number of trees – commuity income plays a factor as well.
A 2003 Denver park study showed lower-income neighborhoods have less than 5 percent canopy cover while higher-income neighborhoods had more than 15 percent cover.
“It’s pretty remarkable when you see the disparity,” said Patrick Hayes, director of the Park People, which plants more than 1,000 trees a year in poorer neighborhoods.
Adding trees to a semi-arid steppe ecosystem isn’t natural, but neither are concrete, asphalt or Kentucky bluegrass, said Dan Binkley, a professor in Colorado State University’s department of forestry, rangeland and watershed stewardship.
“The trees will use water,” he said. “It’s similar to the amount of water on lawns. But there is more of a cooling effect and more noise abatement.”
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper wants to raise the metro area’s shade coverage to 18 percent in 20 years by planting 1 million trees over the next 20 years.
That comes to 137 trees being planted every day – 50,000 new trees every year.
“It’s a question, like anything, of who, where and when,” Hickenlooper said about the proposal announced in July as part of his Greenprint Denver plan.